If you saw my guest post on Design Mom the other day, you know there isn’t a single ball on our Christmas tree. Every year I buy a few glass ornaments that represent the year coming to a close for us individually and as a family. It’s a neat tradition, and it has the added benefit of preventing me from changing the look of our tree every year. Because, please, that’s absolutely something I would do. Were it not for my ban on filler decorations, I would have a pile of ornaments rivaled only by my wrapping paper.
This year I bought the Star Wars Rex Helmet ornament for the boys, of course, but dithered too long and missed out on Darth and R2D2. I’m at Target every other hour, so I have hope the magic of restocking will soon make them mine. As for we, the parents, I wasn’t really sure. I mean, I had an idea of the general theme. It’s not every year the Mister loses his mentor and his mentor’s wife to sudden illness three weeks apart, both of whom happen to be the parents to one of my oldest friends. Nope, that doesn’t happen every year! And it’s a good thing, too, because what a bitch of an ornament to find. Tombstones? A giant teardrop? I know, maybe something depicting twenty million cardboard boxes full of two homes and 40 something years. Is that something Hallmark makes? (As it turns out, kinda.)
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but I have an issue with people who have issues with food. My middle brother was a ridiculously picky eater as a child. My mother, being Latin, catered to his every whim. Separate dinners? Of course! Eating the same foods over and over again? Naturally. Waiting on the side of the parking lot for a special order McDonald’s hamburger while our fries shriveled? Don’t mind if we do! My brother outgrew his finickiness eventually, and he is now the most adventurous eater among us. But I will never forget that feeling of frustration, a feeling that came to a boiling head when I browbeat him into trying a slice of cheese pizza at Chuck E. Cheese when he was 5 years old. I wanted to pry his mouth wide open with my foot and toss in broccoli just to make a point. You think melted cheese and warm bread is bad? Try a cruciferous vegetable.
Helena has issues with food. Better stated, she doesn’t care much about food. It’s neither here nor there, unless we are talking about foods she won’t eat, of which there are many. She likes good quality chocolate and capers, that much I know after all these years. Not together, of course. That would be as insane as eating a mushroom, a perilous act I once suggested in college while we stood in line at a salad bar.
“Yuck. I hate mushrooms.”
“What’s wrong with mushrooms? They’re my favorite.”
“Aside from the fact they’re fungi, nothing.”
Mushrooms are fungi and cheeses, bacteria. Pick your poison! I’m sure she went for the cheddar.
This went on over the years until our final battle over invertebrates, of all things.
“How can you not like shrimp?”
“Because they are scavengers.”
“Shrimp are scavengers. They eat the ocean’s garbage. When you eat shrimp, you’re eating garbage.”
“No, when I eat shrimp I’m eating good and butter and garlic. They’re delicious.”
“What is wrong with you? How can you not like shellfish? HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE SHRIMP?!”
And then, I will never forget this. Helena, confident in the argument, scrunched up her face, curled up her lips, and made a bizarre, squirrel-like chirping noise with her teeth and lips while her fingers fanned her mouth like antennas. Then she looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Scavengers.”
I wanted to tie her up and drop her in the middle of a Long John Silvers.
After her parents died this summer, she went to Sweden to visit her mother’s family and host a memorial. I took on the task of feeding her father’s swarm of violent, ravenous hummingbirds. Every now and then she would send emails updating us on her trip. This one was the most shocking.
Hello Everyone, Just wanted to say hello from Sweden! We are having an amazing time and our flight was nice! We have adjusted to the time change quite well. The travel through the countryside has been fun as well. Today we walk in the forest right outside my friend’s house to pick wild mushrooms which we’ll have dinner… bye for now… Hej da love Helena
Say what? You could have knocked me over with a feather. My reply said as much.
I had to read the mushroom line twice to make sure I was reading things correctly. Helena, eating mushrooms?! What’s next, shrimp?
She got a kick out of my reply, and then told the story of our many dorm room arguments to her family and friends. I’m sure she skewed the telling of it so she didn’t look quite so absolutely impossible when it comes to food, but I let it slide since she was in mourning.
I suppose there was a shorter way for me to explain why I turned the corner at Target and smiled when I saw a box of glass mushroom ornaments, and why I knew immediately they were the perfect ones to remind us of this year for Christmases to come. Yes, I could have written this post more succinctly. A picture, a pithy 300 words. But, damn if it doesn’t give me smug satisfaction to know Helena is reading this right now in absolute horror at the idea of being immortalized as a mushroom on a tree.
Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but good old fashioned teasing tastes best with fungi and scavengers and butter and garlic. Okay, fine, capers too.